Marshalling Disney’s Resources

Publish date:

Longtime Disney Channels executive Gary Marsh has been elevated to president of
Disney Channels Worldwide, replacing Carolina Lightcap and overseeing 101 entertainment
outlets in 169 countries. He’ll continue as Disney Channels Worldwide creative
officer, where he was the creative force behind such Disney Channel hits as High School
and Hannah Montana. He spoke with Multichannel News programming editor
R. Thomas Umstead about the challenges of his new position — and plugged the 2012 launch of
preschool-focused Disney Junior, which will take over SoapNet’s channel space.

MCN: What will be your
primary focus and goal as
the head of Disney Channels
Worldwide? Network
or content distribution
across multiple platforms?
Brand extensions? Content

GM: Under [Disney Media
Networks co-chair and
president, Disney/ABC
Television Group] Anne
[Sweeney]’s leadership, our
strategy has always been
simple, straightforward and
effective — put viewers first.
We always begin by listening
to kids and parents and
then developing and delivering
great Disney-quality
stories and characters that
entertain and inspire. If we
do our job well, and connect
our content offerings
with kids and families, we
ultimately create real value
for our affiliate partners
across their services. That
brand affinity creates other
opportunities beyond TV,
most especially in Disney’s
music, consumer products
and online businesses.

MCN: What are the
strengths of the business, and where do you see room
for improvement?

GM: The trusted relationship we have with our viewers is
our greatest strength. We built that trust and brand affinity
through how we connect with our audience on an ongoing
basis. We also have a distribution strategy focused on
reaching as many kids and families as possible around the
world. Our goal is to use this expanded reach to support
the Disney brand, build
existing franchises and to
launch new TV-based franchises.

Certainly, growing Disney
Junior from a block on
Disney Channel into a full,
24-hour network is one of
our highest priorities. As
always, great content is
the key to our growth and
I couldn’t be more excited
by what we have in the

Strong content also lends
itself to localization around
the world; adapting the
content so that fans in different
countries can have
a unique experience with
it — one that reflects their
culture and deepens their
connection to Disney.

MCN: You’ve had a great
run on the creative side
of the Disney Channels.
How will you balance the
creative and business sides
of your position?

GM: For me, these two areas
have always been connected.
Our content drives our
global business opportunities
and, along with steering
our creative content, I’ve long been involved in the strategic
planning and decision-making in our overall group.
I enjoy strategic challenges as much as the creative ones.

MCN: How will you look to keep Disney Channels
Worldwide viable and competitive in a very crowded kids’
television environment?

GM: People ask me that a lot — ‘How can we possibly top
ourselves?’ The launch of Disney Junior is
a great example of how we differentiate
ourselves around the world. What sets
Disney Junior apart from the pack is that
the brand reflects the unique emotional
connection generations have to Disney
storytelling and Disney’s characters. It’s
the feeling so many of us have when we
think back to the stories and characters
we loved as kids.

Clearly, we’re recapturing those feelings,
evidenced by the fact that a show like
Jake and the Never Land Pirates has already
become cable’s No. 1 series for boys
2-5. Across our channels, by staying true to
our heritage and core values, we’ve continued
to deliver stories kids love. At the
end of the day, great content will always
win out. That’s been my guiding mantra. It
remains so.